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Section Header
The Comancheros
Composed and Conducted by:
Elmer Bernstein

Produced by:
Nick Redman

Film Score Monthly

Release Date:
October, 1999

Also See:
Wild Wild West
Rough Riders

Audio Clips:
2. Main Title (0:31):
WMA (206K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

10. Attack (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

13. Comancheros (0:31):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

20. Finale (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

The album is a limited release of 3,000 copies, available originally through FSM or specialty outlets.


The Comancheros

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Buy it... if you seek a predictably vibrant and bold Elmer Bernstein Western score, complete with the usual brassy themes and optimistic string interludes.

Avoid it... if the cheery atmosphere of many of Bernstein's themes for the genre detracts from the sincerity of the arguably more interesting accompanying underscore.

The Comancheros: (Elmer Bernstein) Remembered mostly as yet another decent entry in John Wayne's career during the height of the Western genre, The Comancheros is perhaps more important to note as the final film of Casablanca director Michael Curtiz's long career. In and of itself, there are few attributes of 1961's The Comancheros that blazed new territory. The script was a character study common to the genre, Wayne's performance was predictable, and the Utah locations had been seen in countless Westerns to date. But the film accomplished its goals well, proving to be above average in nearly every aspect. The debut in a long collaboration with the films of John Wayne, The Comancheros also represented the first major Western score for Elmer Bernstein after the highly popular and industry-defining The Magnificent Seven in 1960. Bernstein's continuing journey in the West features the very much of the same enthusiasm and raw sense of Americana that can be heard in The Magnificent Seven, among other Westerns in his career. Even beyond that previous effort, though, The Comancheros includes a wider range of moods and sub-themes, as well as a further exploration of folk music inherited from Bernstein's root interest in music. The composer is quick to acknowledge Aaron Copland once again as a primary source of inspiration, and while he continues to meet expectations with his expansive and frenetic interpretations of that sound, Bernstein also allows more folk rhythms to intrude on his writing here, foreshadowing the kind of Western sounds that Basil Poledouris would make a career out of several decades later. None of this should serve to discount the energetic and rolling title theme to The Comancheros, however, which was heroic in the same innocent and fantastic super-hero sort of way that defined the Westerns of this and the previous decade. Although some strict fans of more recent film scores might find the theme to be silly, if not ridiculous, it's important to recognize that these themes, in their joyful and yet powerful tendencies, played an enormous role in the glorification of heroes such as John Wayne. They were expected, and Bernstein delivered.

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To Bernstein's credit, The Comancheros excels beyond simply the main theme, however, because of its array of interesting and well-developed sub-themes. The title theme itself is adapted well to represent the contemplative emotions of Wayne's lead, with several yearning, yet pleasant string variations on that typically bold, brassy theme. Two more brutal rhythmic themes would erupt for both the Comanche warriors in "Attack" and the gang of smugglers and thieves themselves in "Comancheros." The Hispanic elements of The Magnificent Seven are replaced in The Comancheros by more stereotypical Native American elements. Upon a quick listen, the Indian music might seem to represent everything that we would expect from it... beating, rhythmic drums pounding. And yet Bernstein's incorporation of more ambitious percussion and other instruments into those cues adds a refreshing new twist to the old, well-beaten stereotype. Even more impressive are the cues that don't really fall into either of the heroic or stereotyped categories. Bernstein's cues for contemplation, memories, and even suspense round out the score very well; the lighter harmonic representation for conversational scenes ensures the listenability of The Comancheros, occupying significant time in the first half of the score with mellow woodwinds. Of course, if you're into the thrill of the big themes with the Duke on horseback, the score has plenty of fully symphonic bursts to keep you adequately pumped about the genre. The stereo-mixed album, the ninth installment in Film Score Monthly's series of Silver Age Classics CDs, is presented in superior form. Unlike a few of the previous albums in the series that had issues of arrangement, especially with unused cues or source music, the album for The Comancheros begins with twenty solid score tracks, followed by two unused songs and a mono mix of the main title theme. The songs are an interesting listen; aside from the obviously racist implications of the Indian calls in the unused title song, the film was released at a time when idea of using a title song for Westerns, albeit essential in the 1950's, was beginning to fade out. Selections of the music conducted by Bernstein were previously available on a Varèse Sarabande album from years past, but you can't fully appreciate The Comancheros without hearing the secondary motifs in full development. For Bernstein fans, if you enjoy his Western scores of the early and mid-60's, and especially The Sons of Katie Elder, then don't let this one pass you by. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Elmer Bernstein reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.25 (in 18 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.13 (in 9,711 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

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 Track Listings: Total Time: 47:43

• 1. Prologue (1:12)
• 2. Main Title (1:40)
• 3. Riverboat Capture (1:17)
• 4. Regrets (1:48)
• 5. The Wide Open (1:48)
• 6. Eulogy (1:52)
• 7. McBain (1:09)
• 8. Digging Again (1:18)
• 9. Nostalgia (0:50)
• 10. Attack (4:43)
• 11. Words (3:19)
• 12. The Sign (1:24)
• 13. Comancheros (5:31)
• 14. Hanging Around (1:36)
• 15. Keep Your Distance (0:49)
• 16. Campfire Dance (1:59)
• 17. Tobe's Death (0:58)
• 18. Leaving (3:46)
• 19. Texas Rangers (3:20)
• 20. Finale and End Title (1:10)

Bonus Tracks:
• 21. The Comancheros (2:00)
(unused title song performed by Claude King)
• 22. You Walked Away (2:27)
(unused song performed by Claude King)
• 23. Main Title (1:40) (mono mix)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The album contains the usual excellent quality of pictorial and textual information established in other albums of FSM's series, with extremely detailed notes about the films and scores.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Comancheros are Copyright © 1999, Film Score Monthly. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/7/99 and last updated 10/16/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1999-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.